86th Annual Commencement on May 21
May 12, 2011 -
Palmer Theological Seminary will recognize nearly 80 men and women who will receive Masters degrees, diplomas, or certificates at the Seminary’s 86th annual commencement ceremony on May 21. The commencement service begins at 10 a.m. at the beautiful Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.
Thirty-nine will receive Master of Divinity degrees; 16 will receive Master of Theological Studies degrees, and an additional 24 will receive certificates or diplomas from Eastern’s School of Christian Ministry or the Priscilla Institute at the Hestenes Center. The Seminary is also awarding a Doctor of Ministry degree posthumously to John D. Leary, who was a student in the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program when he passed away last year.
Bishop Donald Hilliard, Jr., in addition to delivering the commencement address, will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Palmer. Bishop Hilliard has since 1983 served as Senior Pastor at the Cathedral International (the Historic Second Baptist Church) in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Under his leadership, the church has grown from 125 members to some 6,000. It was cited by the American Baptist Churches (USA) as a model for church growth.
Bishop Hilliard is the Founder and Presiding Bishop of the Covenant Ecumenical Fellowship and Cathedral Assemblies, Inc. In this role, he serves as spiritual advisor and mentor for several pastors and churches across the United States and West Africa.
Dr. Hilliard’s ministry has featured the launching of several community development initiatives, including the Cathedral Community Development Corporation (CCDC), an umbrella organization providing outreach services to the local community. He has received numerous awards and citations, including, in 2008, the New York City Council of Churches prestigious "Clergy of the Year" award.
Martin Rolfs Massaglia, a 1980 graduate of the Seminary, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Since March of 2006, Rev. Massaglia has served as senior minister at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, Ohio. He served as pastor of Royersford (Pennsylvania) Baptist Church for two decades before moving to his current pastorate.
Rev. Massaglia is being recognized for pastoral ministry that embodies the Seminary’s motto—The Whole Gospel for the Whole World Through Whole Persons. While at Royersford, he established small group ministry as the basic vehicle for providing ongoing pastoral care and for creating opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth. Beginning in 1991 at Royersford, he pursued his love of theater and his commitment to building community by staging a yearly Broadway-style musical in which as many as 100 church members and area residents participated.
In his current urban location, Rev. Massaglia has strongly encouraged those he leads to develop meaningful relationships with people of other ethnicities in order to model love, peace, and harmony. In addition, his ministry has for many years been international in scope, based partly on his involvement with Nicaraguan Baptists. Not long ago he joined others from his congregation on a missions trip to Nicaragua, working in the trenches with shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows.